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Divide and Conquer

COW Blogs : Mike Cohen's Blog : Divide and Conquer
Although I recently watched Lord of the Rings in HD, I am not talking about the Battle of Helm's Deep.

No, I mean to say, Given a large list of things to do, rather than trying to do more work than is humanly possible, simply pick and choose tasks until you can start knocking things off the list.

When I first started this blog, I used to talk a lot about workflow, project management and organization. I have not written about these subjects for a while, perhaps because I am more organized than I used to be. However, many of the principles still apply.

Make a List

This list can be daily, weekly, monthly, yearly or simply as often is necessary. Do it in Excel, MS Project, a whiteboard, a blackboard if you like chalk dust everywhere, scraps of paper, sticky notes or the back of an envelope.

If this list is something others need to see, I suggest a large markerboard in a hall or common area. I have both. The smaller board in the hall lists hot projects and shoot scheduling. The larger board in my office has a 3.5 month calendar and a column for each person including myself.

I keep a personal list as well on a running page after page legal pad (we will call this the LPad - take that Steve Jobs!).

Crossing off an item gives some gratification.

As for organizing not simply tasks or projects, one must often organize assets - media files, document version control, quality assurance and the like. An Excel file works, however this can result in a lot of file versions being emailed around. One file on a server that can be updated by anyone helps. A web-based spreadsheet that always appears in a browser tab can be even better. There are web-based services for this sort of thing like Basecamp and Dot Project - but you can get so wrapped up in managing the online service that it becomes a job unto itself (see "Balance" below).


Check it Twice


This is one reason I keep multiple lists - to make sure priorities are accounted for, to resolve conflicts and to make sure that we are not forgetting anything.

Periodically discussing the to do items with the people to whom they are assigned is another important function. And don't just say "do this, then this" - be sure to get feedback as to the realism of timelines and dependent tasks.

What is a dependent task? Why, it is a task that cannot be done until something else has been completed first. This can be a challenge.



Prioritize


As already mentioned, one must list items in order, or at least indicate somehow the order of completion that should be followed.

In our shop, we have a standing rule about prioritizing work should someone need to make a decision. In the case of a conflict, ask me. In case I cannot resolve a conflict, go to the boss. But the boss has better things to do than to do my job, so as a manager I need to maintain control over priorities, resolve conflicts, and stay organized.

Re-Prioritize

Occasionally, a hot job comes through the door, or something on hold becomes active again. Thus, reprioritization can become a..um...priority all its own. No client should be told they are not the priority, as there is always a priority given to jobs that a client is expecting to be completed in a timely manner. And as soon a we can complete a client job, the sooner we can send an invoice!

Balance

This goes right back to the last two items. Find a way to balance everything that needs doing without resorting to multitasking or excessive overtime. You do this by delegating the right job to the right person in the right order, and evaluating the progress on a regular basis.

Easier said than done - management of jobs, schedules and priorities is a dynamic process requiring daily progress reports. It can be a simple "how's XYZ going? Do you think 2 weeks is still enough time?" or as complex as "attached is an excel listing the current status of XYZPDQ - we will update this at the end of the week and reevaluate the completion schedule if anything new happens this week, etc."

Balance can also mean, balancing the project tasks with the organization of the projects. Don't let whatever system you use become another project to manager. Being a project manager means you manage the project, not that you manage the managing of the project.

You have to manage the managing of the project, but not to the detriment of the project.

Do What Must Be Done

This does not mean working 80 hour weeks. It might, but it mostly means being focused on the tasks at hand, trying to stick to time lines, and being diligent in everything you do.

Think of the Big Picture


This big picture is your bottom line - profit. This bottom line is fed by successfully completed work, which keeps your clients happy. Simple really, but getting there is half the fun.



Posted by: Mike Cohen on Sep 19, 2010 at 9:52:09 am workflow, project management



I have a passion for my job, which entails training for medical professionals such as surgeons, nurses and administrators, not to mention various industries.

Technology is great, but how you apply your skills is what pays the bills.

Years ago I canceled my Media 100 support contract upon discovering what a treasure trove of helpful advice can be found on the Creative COW website. I am proud to be a part of this fantastic community.

In my blog I talk a little about media production, a lot about travel and workflow, and occasionally about cooking, nature and my four-legged friends.

Follow me on Twitter: med_ed_mike

I'm also on LinkedIn if you can't get enough of me!




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